The Breastoration Fund was created by breast cancer survivors Sandy Keller, Eve Wallinga and Kim Sport to help breast cancer patients access the treatment no one talks about – breast reconstruction following surgical mastectomies. The survivor-founders decided not to create a separate 501(c)(3) for the Breastoration Fund, and instead to place the fund under the auspices of CAGNO – the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans, which serves 13 parishes in SE Louisiana and has been in existence since 1958. Breastoration Application
To get an in-depth perspective click here to see Kim Sport and learn how Breastoration was started.
Reconstruction following breast cancer surgery is not cosmetic surgery. It is medically necessary. Federal and state laws require health insurers (including Medicaid and Medicare) to cover breast reconstruction procedures. The problem is that fewer than 35% of eligible women undergo breast reconstruction because a staggering 70% of women, particularly poor, minority women, are simply not informed of their reconstructive options, do not know they have insurance coverage, or do not know where to gain access to the procedures. This lack of information may greatly affect a woman’s decision to have breast conservation surgery as opposed to a mastectomy. It may lead to delayed and more complicated reconstructions or, even worse, unnecessary life-long disfigurement.
Survivors have written Breastoration’s educational brochure, which CAGNO has begun to distribute to physicians’ offices so that all women have the information they need regarding the availability of health insurance coverage for breast reconstruction and their options before any cancer surgery. While CAGNO hopes to eventually distribute this information nationwide, the biggest push for dissemination of the Breastoration brochures will be in Louisiana, which has the highest mortality rate in the nation for breast cancer and provides a perfect example of where good intentions to help women make informed choices about their breast cancer treatment options have failed to have an impact on the target population.
In 1999, the Louisiana Legislature passed a statute (La. R.S. 40:1300.151-4) that requires a treating physician or surgeon to inform a patient diagnosed with any form of breast cancer of the alternative efficacious methods of treatment and to provide each patient a standard written summary of the advantages, disadvantages, risks, and descriptions of the procedures, including breast cancer reconstruction surgery. The statute further requires the Department of Health and Hospitals to create and review the summary every three years and the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to create a distribution system of the summary brochure that is linked to a physician’s licensing renewal.
Research conducted by the representatives of the Breastoration Fund for the United Way for the Greater New Orleans Area’s Women’s Leadership Council found that the summary brochure was created once in 2000 and never reviewed, and that the LSBME distributed the summary brochure once to licensed doctors and never created an annual distribution system. Representatives of the Breastoration Fund, the Women’s Leadership Council and other cancer non-profit organizations are working together to take necessary steps to assure that the DHH, the LSBME and Louisiana physicians comply with the existing law.
In addition to its education and advocacy efforts, the Breastoration Fund provides financial assistance to cover ancillary expenses of women seeking breast reconstruction in CAGNO’s service area. CAGNO’s service area includes Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, St. Charles, Washington, Assumption, Lafourche, St. Mary, Terrebonne, and St. John the Baptist Parishes. CAGNO created the eligibility criteria, applications process and application form.
Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer is one of the toughest moments a woman is ever faced with. There is much organizational support for breast cancer research and community education, screening and treatment, but there is little or no funding for the critical final step in the physical and emotional healing of a breast cancer survivor. The Breastoration Fund is hopefully the first of many to come.